If You Can’t Be Sincere, You Shouldn’t Recognize Someone at All

When we consult on social recognition, a common (and important) question is, “Yes, I understand and agree with the value and importance of recognition, but how do I recognize well? How do I coach others to do the same?

There are many principles of good, effective employee recognition that we’ve written about elsewhere – timelyfrequentaligned with core values and objectives, calibrated to level of effort and contribution, involves everyone – but the most important is that the recognition is sincere.

Why you MUST be genuine

Why is sincerity so important? The Switch & Shift blog put it quite well:

Where compliments are concerned, the medium with which we must always start is sincerity. Even the most articulate compliment etched from a sense of obligation, routine or self-aggrandizement will be about as effective as having fashioned the David from dryer lint. As Matthew Gordon pointed out, ‘Gratitude that isn’t genuine is worse than no gratitude at all.’”

People can sniff out insincerity very quickly. A half-hearted or even well-intentioned but uninformed moment of praise falls flat because the gratitude isn’t real. It isn’t sincere.

Think about wedding toasts you may have heard. The worst toasts, the ones that leave the wedding guests cringing, are those where the best man is focused on the audience the first, on getting a laugh, or setting himself up for praise.

The best toasts, however, are the ones where the best man is totally focused on the newly married couple, concerned only with celebrating them and their love for each other.

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How you can be sincere and appreciative

This year, give the gift of sincere gratitude and appreciation. Here are three (3) tips to keep in mind:

  1. Make it about them, not you – Always have the recipient at the heart of your message. Be sure to specify what they did, the exemplary way in which they did, and the impact those efforts had on others.
  2. Be detailed and personal – A casual, “Hey, thanks” or “Thanks for all you do” just leaves the recipient wondering, “Thanks for what?” and “Do you even know what I do?” Take an extra few minutes to share a truly personal moment and detailed expression of gratitude with the recipient.
  3. Put your heart into it – A top hallmark of sincerity is your own vulnerability, especially if you’re in a position of seniority over the recipient. The need for acknowledgment, praise and appreciation is deeply human. Show your humanity.

What a truly sincere message sounds like

What might such a sincere message look like? Perhaps something like this:

Tom, your contribution to the team on the McQuinn project was the lynchpin in us being able to deliver the project ahead of schedule and under budget. Your trademark ingenuity under pressure really shined when you came up with the idea to reuse an older system that, with some minor tweaks for updating, perfectly suited the client need.

I’ve come to rely on you over these last several months as someone whose wit and wisdom not only helps the team achieve our targets, but makes our work together more fun and energizing. I deeply appreciate that aspect of your personality and thank you for bringing your whole self to our team.”

Who do you need to sincerely appreciate this holiday season?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.

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